Tag: rules

March 4, 2015

Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals

Outside of linguistics, the people who care most about language tend to be prescriptivists—editors, writers, English teachers, and so on—while linguists and lexicographers are descriptivists. “Descriptive, not prescriptive!” is practically the linguist rallying cry. But we linguists have done a terrible job of explaining just what that means and why it matters. As I tried […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 8 Replies to “Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals”
March 4, 2014

Why Teach Grammar?

Today is National Grammar Day, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what grammar is and why we study it. Last week in the Atlantic, Michelle Navarre Cleary wrote that we should do away with diagramming sentences and other explicit grammar instruction. Her argument, in a nutshell, is that grammar instruction not only doesn’t […]

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Grammar, Writing 12 Replies to “Why Teach Grammar?”
November 18, 2013

12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes

There are a lot of bad grammar posts in the world. These days, anyone with a blog and a bunch of pet peeves can crank out a click-bait listicle of supposed grammar errors. There’s just one problem—these articles are often full of mistakes of one sort or another themselves. Once you’ve read a few, you […]

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Grammar, Prescriptivism, Usage 162 Replies to “12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes”
April 26, 2012

Guest Post at Logophilius

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Uncategorized 0 Replies to “Guest Post at Logophilius”
March 4, 2012

Rules, Evidence, and Grammar

In case you haven’t heard, it’s National Grammar Day, and that seemed as good a time as any to reflect a little on the role of evidence in discussing grammar rules. (Goofy at Bradshaw of the Future apparently had the same idea.) A couple of months ago, Geoffrey Pullum made the argument in this post […]

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Descriptivism, Grammar, Prescriptivism, Usage 10 Replies to “Rules, Evidence, and Grammar”
August 2, 2011

Who, That, and the Nature of Bad Rules

A couple of weeks ago the venerable John E. McIntyre blogged about a familiar prescriptive bugbear, the question of that versus who(m). It all started on the blog of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, where a Professor Jacoby, a college English professor, wrote in to share his justification for the rule, which […]

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Prescriptivism, Usage 10 Replies to “Who, That, and the Nature of Bad Rules”
December 23, 2008

Less and Fewer

I know this topic has been addressed in detail elsewhere (see goofy’s post here, for example), but a friend recently asked me about it, so I thought I’d take a crack at it. It’s fairly straightforward: there are the complex, implicit rules that people have been following for over a thousand years, and then there […]

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Usage, Words 12 Replies to “Less and Fewer
March 19, 2008

Rules Are Rules

Recently I was involved in an online discussion about the pronunciation of the word the before vowels. Someone wanted to know if it was pronounced /ði/ (“thee”) before vowels only in singing, or if it was a general rule of speech as well. His dad had said it was a rule, but he had never […]

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Descriptivism, Language education, Prescriptivism 0 Replies to “Rules Are Rules”
September 3, 2006

Arrant Pedantry

When you study and work with language for a living, a lot of people naturally assume that you’re some sort of scowling, finger-wagging pedant who is secretly keeping a list of all the grammatical and usage errors they make. It’s difficult to make people understand that you only correct errors when you’re on the clock, […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, Rants 16 Replies to “Arrant Pedantry”
December 15, 2005

Standards of Usage

Grammar is a poorly understood and much-maligned word. It’s usually used to mean the set of rules governing all aspects of language—a tedious and convoluted list of strictures and prohibitions telling us what we should and shouldn’t say or write. It’s a subject that most people do not like and one that they do not […]

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Usage 0 Replies to “Standards of Usage”
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